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Why Social Marketers Need to Think Like Journalists

After I deliver a keynote, I always get the same two questions:

  1. How did you get to this point in your career?
  2. What hair product(s) do you use?

Answers here:

  1. I think like a journalist.
  2. I use Oribe, if you’re curious.

The line between social media and the rest of media continues to blur. Cosmopolitan’s Snapchat Story brings in 3 million daily viewers and, to millennials, Hayes Grier and Pew Die Pie are as famous and influential as Justin Bieber. A Vox article shared across LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter can create as much impact as a piece in The Wall Street Journal.

The truth is that social media has leveled the playing field for marketers.

When I started using Twitter and writing guest blogs in 2011, that wasn’t the case. I, like many, started writing guest articles to create thought leadership in my field. With a decent social media following, I was able to get a lot of page views on those blogs. Eventually, I was asked to contribute for larger outlets.

When I had the opportunity to contribute for The Washington Times and Mashable in 2012, I did interviews. Why interviews? I wanted to connect with the most influential people in my field (Charlene Li, Gary Vaynerchuk, Amy Jo Martin, David Armano) and, more importantly, I wanted to offer value upfront.

Find the Value

A talk show host wants a great guest to get ratings. The guest wants to be on the show to promote their work. It’s a relationship that has worked for decades. The same is true in networking and marketing.

Provide value and exposure, and in turn you’ll be able to learn from and connect with people outside of your current network.

Trust Your Sources

Your network is key. You are the sum of the five people with whom you spend the most time. We’ve all heard that. A journalist is always looking for ways to increase readership, for people to find their content. You should be doing the same on social.

Your content, whether it’s your own or for a brand campaign, has limits. A viral event is when content reaches outside of an existing network and is shared by the masses. But virality is achievable with regularity. All it requires are strategic relationships with influential people.

The “old way” to get content noticed was to distribute it to major networks, cable news, and publications. The press release used to be vital in that process, but there’s chance involved in a press release. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

Twitter Jeff Barrett

I don’t like to leave things up to chance. Instead, I work with a network of influencers across Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat to distribute content. Being able to have people you can trust to make sure your content is seen by the masses is crucial.

Have a Great Memory

A journalist makes contacts but doesn’t always need to call on their expertise every time. Being able to recall that someone from two years prior is perfect for a current situation is paramount.

In fact, being a great dot-connector in your network will always help you in your career. The small value you provide someone in your network today will be paid forward tomorrow.

Be Curious

A journalist is always looking to learn more, to dig deeper, to understand where things are and where they are heading. I have pivoted at least five times in my career based on my predictions of the future of marketing. I plan to pivot again this year. Every time it has been a great choice. But I would never be able to do that without constantly reading about my field, testing new platforms, and challenging my comfort zone.

Create Leverage

Views, impressions, and traction become currency. Your ability to get content seen, as a marketer, can open doors. The journalist with the syndicated column gets to write about whatever they want, whenever they want. Why? Because they have a loyal audience. Because they spent time carefully connecting with a network.

That’s where you want to be. You want the leverage to create the campaigns you want. You want the leverage that makes you irreplaceable in your company. Take the time to build your network on social media, identify who can help you build a brand, and you’ll be able to call the shots.

Want more tools for looking at social differently in 2016? Check out Simply Measured’s 2016 Social + Digital Marketing Predictions below.

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2016 Social + Digital Marketing Predictions


Jeff Barrett

Jeff Barrett is Business Insider's #1 Ad Executive on Twitter, a Forbes Top 50 Social Media Influencer, a PRNewswire Earnie Award winner for Best Use of Video In Social Media, and a 2015 Shorty Award Best Business Blogger. He believes that, in PR, you are only as good as the relationships you develop and the dots you can connect.

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